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THE RAVENNAAGREED STATEMENT AND CATHOLIC-ORTHODOX DIALOGUE1 Paul McPartlan* Introduction When Pope Benedict XVI went to Istanbul (Constantinople) in November 2006, he and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said in their Common Declaration that the mission, “Go, make disciples of all nations ” (Mt 28:19), was today “more timely and necessary than ever, even in traditionally Christian countries.” “Our traditions represent for us a patrimony which must be continually shared, proposed, and interpreted anew,” they said. “This is why we must strengthen our cooperation and our common witness before the world.”2 The Church must proclaim the Gospel of reconciliation to the world; it must proclaim Christ, who left his followers the gift of peace, a peace the world cannot give, as he himself said (cf. Jn 14:27). How obvious it is that the world left to itself cannot find true peace. And yet it craves peace! How urgent it is for Christians to recognise their calling to bear proper witness to the peace that only the Lord can give. How urgent it is to seek our own reconciliation! One of the first overseas trips that Pope John Paul II made was to Istanbul , in 1979, for the patronal feast of St Andrew; and he said some memorable and urgent words. “This visit to the first see of the Orthodox Church shows clearly the will of the whole Catholic Church to go forward in the march towards the unity of all.” He added that the re-establishment of full communion between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church was vital for the progress of the whole ecumenical movement. “The division between us may not, perhaps, have been without an influence on the other and later divisions.”3 Those words highlight why The Jurist 69 (2009) 749–765 749 * Carl J. Peter Professor of SystematicThology and Ecumenism, School of Theology and Religious Studies, Catholic University of America 1 This article was initially a lecture sponsored by the Tachmindji Foundation and given on February 20, 2008 at the Catholic University of America in Washington. 2 Common Declaration by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I, 30 November 2006, n.3; at xvi/speeches/2006/november/documents/hf_ben-xvi_spe_20061130_dichiarazione-comune_ en.html. 3 Pope John Paul II, address, November 30, 1979, in Towards the Healing of Schism: The Sees of Rome and Constantinople, ed. and trans. E.J. Stormon (New York/Mahwah: Paulist, 1987) 360. 750 the jurist Catholic-Orthodoxdialogueissoimportant:ourdivisionatthestartofthe secondmillenniumsetaterribleexampletoothers,particularlysomecenturies later, at the time of the Reformation, that it is alright for Christian communities to separate and to live apart, when it is not. We must repent and try now to set a far better example. As Patriarch Athenagoras said in 1966: Modern man and his world cannot support any further the luxury of Christian division, of calculations and reservations of a nonspiritual kind, or armchair academic discussions that never end. Mankind and the world need an answer. And this can only be the urgent manifestation of the one Christ through his one Church. In this matter the greatest share of responsibility is borne by our two ancient Christian Churches, the Roman Catholic Church of the West and the Orthodox Church of the East: both must advance courageously through practical measures towards unity.4 “For nearly a whole millennium,” continued Pope John Paul in 1979, “the two sister Churches grew side by side, as two great vital and complementary traditions of the same Church of Christ, keeping not only peaceful and fruitful relations, but also concern for the indispensable communion in faith, prayer and charity, which they did not at any cost want to imperil, despite their different kinds of sensibility. The second millennium, on the contrary, was darkened, apart from some fleeting bright intervals, by the sense of estrangement which the two Churches felt towards each other, with all the fatal consequences of this. The wound is not yet healed.” “Nevertheless,” he said, “the Lord can cure it and he bids us do our best to help the process. . . . Surely it is time to quicken our pace towards perfect brotherly reconciliation, so that the dawn of the third millennium may find us...


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